Fish Passage and Reintroduction Studies

A bunch of red fish in a river.

Hydraulic mining during the Gold Rush in the mid to late 1800s took a heavy toll on habitat in the Yuba River watershed. Entire mountainsides were washed away, sending tremendous amounts of sediment downstream and transforming the river. As population centers grew, the river’s landscape was further altered to facilitate development, flood protection and agriculture. The California Debris Commission built several dams on the lower Yuba River to hold back gravel and silt washed downstream by hydraulic mining.

Englebright Dam, constructed in 1941 and now owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, holds back more than 28 million cubic yards of debris. While the dam has prevented the release of this sediment into the Sacramento River system, it also blocks salmon passage into the upper watershed.

Yuba Water has participated in many different studies to explore how best to enhance and improve the chances for recovery of Chinook salmon and steelhead in the Yuba River watershed, which began in earnest in the 1990s. These many efforts have generally worked to identify the most promising potential actions for encouraging recovery of anadromous salmonids in the Yuba watershed, based on analyses of available and potential spawning, rearing and migration habitats, preliminary designs and cost estimates of possible reintroduction and habitat enhancement measures.

Yuba Salmon Partnership

The Yuba Salmon Partnership Initiative was initiated in 2015 by Yuba Water in partnership with American Rivers, California's Department of Fish and Wildlife, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, National Marine Fisheries Service and Trout Unlimited to explore a voluntary reintroduction of spring-run Chinook salmon, and possibly steelhead, to the North Yuba River above New Bullards Bar Dam and to enhance habitat in the lower Yuba River. 

Using newly designed, state of the art collection and transportation facilities, the program explored hauling upstream migrating adult salmon to the North Yuba River and then collecting out-migrating juveniles above New Bullards Bar Dam in the winter and spring and safely transporting them downstream past the dams to resume their journey to the Pacific Ocean.

Yuba Water previously committed up to $100 million over 50 years to the Yuba Salmon Partnership, which was aimed to supplement additional local, state and federal funding.

Although the partnership is currently on hiatus, Yuba Water remains committed to collaboratively exploring the possibility of salmon reintroduction in the upper Yuba River watershed.

Yuba Salmon Forum

In spring 2010, the National Marine Fisheries Service initiated a Yuba River Multi-Party Forum to investigate opportunities for collaboration on fisheries restoration efforts in the Yuba River watershed. In 2011, the group renamed itself the Yuba Salmon Forum and developed a charter to guide the actions and activities of the group. From its charter:

The purpose of the Forum will be to identify, evaluate, recommend, and seek to achieve implementation of effective near-term and long-term actions to achieve viable salmonid populations in the Yuba River watershed to contribute to recovery goals, while also considering other beneficial uses of water resources and habitat values in neighboring watersheds, as part of Central Valley salmonid recovery actions.

The Yuba Salmon Forum was open to all and included various participants. Its most consistent members were the National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, American Rivers, Foothill Water Network, South Yuba River Citizens League, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, American Whitewater, Trout Unlimited, California Department of Fish and Game, Yuba Water and Placer County Water Agency, with occasional participation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the California Department of Water Resources and Water Resources Control Board, Sierra County, Nevada Irrigation District and Pacific Gas & Electric. 

The Yuba Salmon forum was organized into three caucuses: an agency caucus, a water caucus, and a conservation caucus, and had a plenary, a steering and technical working group, which met from late 2010 through 2014. Habitat and potential reintroduction passage investigations were conducted through 2013 and the Yuba Salmon Forum attempted to reach consensus into 2014. The effort stalled due to the inability to reach agreement on a set of preferred actions.

While the Yuba Salmon Forum is no longer active, the information it produced is still considered valuable and has been maintained for future reference through the links below.

Yuba Salmon Forum Documents

Yuba Reintroduction Working Group

The Yuba Reintroduction Working Group (YRWG) is a group formed in 2021 made up of parties including: American Rivers, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, U.S. Forest Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, Nevada Irrigation District, Placer County Water Agency, U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Pacific Gas & Electric, South Yuba River Citizens League, and Yuba Water Agency. The YRWG’s goal is to investigate the biological, technical and funding feasibility of reintroducing spring-run Chinook salmon to historical habitat in the upper Yuba River watershed via development and implementation of a pilot program as a preliminary step toward establishing a viable population that can increase in size to approach the carrying capacity of the habitat. The  parties recognize that a long-term goal of a pilot program is to inform a full-scale implementation project that supports a spring-run Chinook salmon population in the upper Yuba River Watershed.

Yuba Reintroduction Working Group Documents

Relevant documents will be shared in the coming months as they are developed.